The Setzer Student Center design combines inviting and functional outdoor spaces with improved ecology while celebrating campus history and culture.
One key principle of this project was to preserve the university’s population of large oak trees. Asakura Robinson developed design concepts that not only improved lighting and drainages, but also reintroduced planting materials that existed before and were not thriving.
The design includes improved circulation, better engagement of the surrounding buildings and improved site drainage. The primary pathway across the quad, leading form the Student Center, serves as the main organizing axis and provides an inviting outdoor gathering space that strengthens campus identity.
The Setzer Student Center is the “living room” of the campus, hosting student gatherings and campus activities. The space was redesigned as an activated public space that provides a variety of gathering and meeting spaces, highlights campus history and culture, and allows students to move more efficiently around campus.
In collaboration with Kirksey Architects, Asakura Robinson led the design phases of this project from Schematic Design and Design Development through Construction Documents and Construction Observation. This project addressed important challenges faced with utilizing outdoor spaces at higher education institutions so that they meet the needs of students, staff, and faculty, but also preserve surrounding natural elements.
Outdoor spaces at higher education institutions are opportunities to enhance learning experiences as well as spaces were students spend their free time. Placing value on amenities such as access to outdoor spaces and designing safe spaces that are enjoyable for students to learn are important to enriching and enhancing the overall campus experience. Examples of improvements to the quad include lighting, drainage, tree ecology, and furniture.
Three new outdoor gathering spaces are located along the primary axis. The Setzer East Entry Plaza provides sculptural seating and connects to secondary paths. A plaza surrounding the Mirabeau Lamar statue provides additional gathering space and reflects the campus iconography. The East Entry Plaza at the terminus of the primary axis serves as the new location for the relocated flagpole. A secondary pathway features additional gathering and open spaces that include seating walls, shade structures, and meandering pathways that enhance the overall experience.
Asakura Robinson was also involved with public engagement for this project. The university conducted many focus groups and meetings to gather feedback from the students to ensure that new designs met the diverse needs of the entire university population. Students provided input and precedent photographs and expressed desires for how they wanted the space to look.